Small Wind Conference Report

Over 200 people attended the 4th Annual Small Wind Conference, organized by Focus on Energy and hosted by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The leading installers and manufacturers attend the conference and it has become the premier small wind industry event each year.

“This year’s conference say the highest attendance level yet of the small wind industry and associated stakeholders. Besides all but two North American small wind manufacturers, attendees included state public benefit program managers, representatives from the insurance industry and financial interests, and a number of education entities interested in adding small wind to their offerings”

Sixteen manufacturers provided updates on their products, pricing, and future directions. The manufacturers included familiar companies with long history in the marketplace and emerging technologies from new companies who expect to sell products soon. Companies represented were: Abundant Renewable Energy, Bergey Windpower, Southwest Windpower, Entegrity Wind Systems, Proven Energy Ltd., Wind Turbine Industries Corp., Endurance Wind Power, Eoltec Wind Energy Systems, North Wind, Fortis Wind Energy, Kestrel Wind Turbines, Mariah Power, Earth Turbines, African Wind Power, and Gaia Wind.

One of the great features of this conference is that it directly addresses controversial topics. This year’s conference included two presentations on continuing research on the wind resource and performance of rooftop wind turbines. Rooftop turbines are very attractive to consumers, but the wind resource at buildings is challenging on most buildings. We learned of an on-going British study which shows that turbine performance on buildings is much less than on a tower in a good location.

Another popular and controversial topic was vertical axis turbines. We learned about the different vertical wind technologies. The mantra with VAWTS was “show me the data”. There are many companies with no products available for purchase while making performance claims with no data to back up the claims. NREL is currently testing a vertical axis turbine and participants are eager for the data from those tests.

The conference ended with installers discussing what they are learning from dealing with customers and installing product. This session put an exclamation mark on a conference with good nuts and bolts information, networking with the movers in the industry, and honest dialogue on the issues facing the industry today.

This year’s conference saw the first Small Wind Awards for “enthusiasm, dedication, advocacy, and contributions to the small wind industry”. Roy Butler, of Four Winds Renewable Energy in New York , received the Installer Award and Jenny Heinzen, of Lakeshore Technical College in Wisconsin, received the Educator Award.

The conference preceded the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s annual Energy Fair. Besides Focus on Energy and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, conference sponsors included the American Wind Energy Association, Southwest Windpower, and Richardson Electronics.

 

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